Thirteen suspected members of an international criminal gang have been arrested on suspicion of smuggling drugs worth millions of pounds into the UK.
The men, aged between 24 and 59, were arrested in London, Manchester, Stockport, St Helens, Warrington, Bolton, Dewsbury and Leeds, suspected of smuggling drugs through UK ports over an 18-month period.
Authorities believe they belong to the UK arm of a group which uses Dutch and British front companies to import heroin, cocaine and cannabis by hiding them in lorry loads of vegetables and juice.
The full extent of the drug trafficking operation came to light in September 2018, when three consignments were intercepted. They contained 351kg of cocaine, 92kg of heroin, 250kg of cannabis and 1,850kg of hemp/hashish.
The street value of the drugs was £38m.
Investigators with the National Crime Agency say they believe they have disrupted the import of more drugs worth billions of pounds.
Four men and two women from the Netherlands were arrested in April 2019 by the Dutch National Police.
They are awaiting extradition to the UK.
Subsequent inquiries led officers to believe the group had imported drugs on several occasions between February 2017 and October 2018.
Jayne Lloyd, NCA regional head of investigations, said: “Stopping criminals who don’t care about the damage they are causing in communities, and the children being exploited by County Lines drug dealing, is an absolute priority.
“We suspect these men were involved in an industrial-scale operation – the biggest ever uncovered in the UK – bringing in tonnes of deadly drugs that were distributed to crime groups throughout the country.
“By working closely with partners here and overseas, in particular the Dutch National Police, we believe we have dismantled a well-established drug supply route.”
The arrests are part of work by the National Crime Agency, supported by Europol, Eurojust, Police of Finland National Bureau of Investigation, Border Force, HMRC and numerous police forces.
The investigation also links to a previous NCA operation where 13 people were jailed for a total of 176 years after more than 100kg of heroin was seized in 2015.
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